Local News

Police Look at Possible Ties Between Student, Suspect

Posted January 10, 2007 11:08 a.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2007 9:57 a.m. EST

— Police remained tight-lipped Wednesday about any relationship between a Guilford County 911 dispatcher, a North Carolina Central University student she is charged with killing and the slain woman's fiance, a Greensboro police officer.

Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 27, was arrested Tuesday evening and charged with murder in the Jan. 4 shooting death of Denita Monique Smith, 25.

Smith, a graduate student from Charlotte, was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell in the Campus Crossings Apartments complex on East Cornwallis Street in Durham.

Crawley, a single mother with two elementary school-age children, lives blocks from Jermeir Stroud, an N.C. Central graduate who got engaged to Smith last month.

"We're still trying to determine the relationship of all three," Cpl. David Addison of the Durham Police Department said.

Crawley's neighbors said she and her children moved in a few months ago and kept to themselves.

"I never saw anybody coming in or out of the house or anything. I'm just in total shock," one woman said.

Stroud's neighbors said he also kept to himself. Some said they had no clue the suspect in a murder case lives so close.

Durham investigators searched Crawley's house and car several days ago, police said.

Authorities have refused to discuss any possible motives. but police said that Smith's death didn't appear to be a random act of violence.

"In this case, we didn't think it would be beneficial for the media to have (that information) or the public to know it," Addison said.

Crawley's attorney, Bruce Lee of Greensboro, also declined to comment on the case Wednesday after Crawley was ordered held without bond at the Durham County Detention Center.

Her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 1.

Crawley had worked at Guliford Metro 911 since 2000. She was suspended Saturday after being named a person of interest in Smith's murder.

Donna Estes of Guilford Metro 911 called Crawley a good employee and said she and others were stunned by the arrest.

"I don't know that anyone ever expects anything like this to happen," Estes said. "I like to — as well as my co-workers like to — maintain that everyone is innocent until proven guilty."

Smith was described by N.C. Central faculty and students as a star student. She had received a bachelor's degree in English from the university and had planned to wrap up her master's thesis this semester.

Her funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at University Park Baptist Church in Charlotte. North Carolina Central University is providing transportation for students who want to attend Smith's funeral. Buses leave from the student union at 10 a.m.

Durham police and community organizers canvassed the Campus Crossings complex Wednesday evening. They hoped to jog neighbors' memories and turn up more evidence in the case.

Officers had received a call about gunshots in the area the morning Smith was slain but found nothing at the time. Witnesses saw a woman driving away from the apartment complex in a burgundy Ford Explorer at about the same time as the gunshots were reported.

Police later located and interviewed the woman, but police haven't disclosed whether she is Crawley.